Canucks-Wild Preview

The Associated Press

Roberto Luongo has shut out the Minnesota Wild three straight times, but his last three starts at Xcel Energy Center have been a stark contrast.

Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault has an interesting decision to make on who to start in goal Thursday night against the Wild.

Luongo's five regular-season shutouts of Minnesota (25-20-8) are his most against any opponent. He has stopped 90 shots in three straight shutouts against the Wild, but those outings have been at home.

It's been a different story in Minnesota, where Luongo has a 7.00 goals-against average in losing three straight starts while being pulled every time. Cory Schneider replaced Luongo in the third period of a 6-2 loss there Oct. 19, 2010, and has since started all three of the Canucks' visits to Xcel Energy Center.

Since Schneider started the teams' only matchup at Minnesota this season - a 5-1 loss Nov. 3 - Luongo has been in net for the past two meetings and posted his only shutouts of the season.

Luongo has started eight of the last nine games overall for Vancouver (33-15-5), and he's opened its four-game road trip by winning shootouts in Colorado and Nashville.

"We're going to be involved in a lot of tight games," Luongo said. "We gotta find out ways to win. The last couple have been a shootout, which are nice, but that's the kind of hockey we're going to be involved in especially coming down the stretch."

Vigneault split up the Western Conference's most prolific teammates by starting with Henrik and Daniel Sedin on different lines in Tuesday's 4-3 win over Nashville.

The twins, however, found themselves together on the ice for a key 23-second stretch in the first period in which Henrik assisted on goals by Byron Bitz and Daniel. Bitz, a new linemate for Henrik, also assisted on Daniel's goal.

"Obviously it was a matter of time before the twins got back together," Vigneault said. "I was able to at the end of one of those power plays put them back together because of the killers that we used and that's when Bitz got his back-to-back points."

The brothers have combined for 14 points in four 2011-12 meetings with Minnesota. Daniel Sedin has 11 points during a six-game run against the Wild.

He might not have his twin as he tries to extend that streak. Henrik was hit in the foot by a slap shot against the Predators, and though a CT scan came back clean, the 2009-10 Hart Trophy winner is a game-time decision after taking place in Thursday's morning skate.

Minnesota may not have a good option in goal. Niklas Backstrom is 0-4-1 with a 3.78 GAA in his last five starts against the Canucks while backup Josh Harding is 1-4-0 with a 3.38 GAA in five career starts against them.

Vancouver's last seven games have been decided by one goal - five in shootouts - while Minnesota had a run of four straight such games end with Tuesday's 3-1 loss at Columbus. The Wild were outshot 14-7 in the first period, and coach Mike Yeo was displeased with the effort throughout.

"The reality is that I don't think we deserved to win the game," Yeo said. "It's a game of one-on-one battles and they got the better of us - by a large margin - in that department tonight."

Minnesota has gone 3-4-1 since losing Mikko Koivu to a left shoulder injury, scoring exactly one goal five times in that span, but he's been cleared to return. Yeo said he expected to put Koivu, second on the team with 33 points, back on the top line with Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi.

Heatley, who leads the Wild with 17 goals and 38 points, has an assist for his only point against Vancouver this season.